How to Manage Translations with Missing Text

When managing federal translation assignments, a surprising number of documents arrive that are either incomplete or poor scans. Frequently, the client will not have access to the original file, so you are left with only this incomplete document. As a project manager or translator, it is important to address this situation properly and provide the most accurate translation possible for your client. Here are some items to review before you begin a translation with missing text:

What type of document is it?

The type of document will often have a large impact upon how you handle a translation. There is a huge difference between translating a handwritten diary and an official legal document. Legal documents with missing text are difficult because the missing text must simply be noted by the translator. You cannot infer any information using context as the translation must be word for word accurate. When translating a handwritten diary you will likely be translating more for overall meaning of the text, and therefore can use context to make slight assumptions as to what the missing text is. The translator should still note any and all instances where the text was cut off so that the client will know where there could be potential discrepancies with the original.

Severity of Missing Text

Is half of the page cut off or the entire translation? If so, it is probably not wise to try and concoct a full translation only having half of the text. Instead, a gist translation would likely be the best route, so you can at least provide the client with some information about the text. If a very small sliver is cut off of one side, and you can make out most of the words still, provide a full translation but be sure to provide a note to the client about this text.